Talk to anyone who grows Pinot Noir and you'll get agreement on one thing: Pinot Noir is a tough grape to grow but far from tough itself! Thin-skinned, temperamental, and an early budder and ripener. You can't take your eyes off it for a moment. If frosts don't get it (fortunately our site is reasonably frost free), disease will. It's fussy about where it grows, delivering sublimely beautiful wines from only a handful of places in the world. Even in these unique places, only with care and patience will it express itself to the full.Very few Pinot Noir clones, on their own, are able to deliver an age-worthy, silky smooth, balanced Pinot Noir that dances across the palate. The secret to creating a wine with poise and elegance, lies in blending wine from different clones.

In 2003 we began developing the vineyard with a selection of premium Pinot Noir clones. More about these later. Having mapped the soils across the fan, we knew where each soil sub-type began and ended. Our aim was to spread the best available clones across both main soil types on the Estate to exploit their full potential: to let the vineyard soils speak through them. Not quite a mixed planting, but close.

We followed up in 2004 and in 2008 with plantings that took us up onto the thin limestone at the crest of the fan.

Among our selection criteria were clones with moderate vigour, small bunches with small berries to concentrate flavour, and a typical Burgundian aroma and acid profile. We are not obsessed with colour and believe strongly that an increase in colour does not necessarily correlate well with an increase in wine quality. We also looked for clones able to ripen well with moderate alcohol levels. There is no such thing as the perfect clone, but some come close.

Interplanted between the Pinot Noir vines is a random planting of Berrysmith Pinot Gris accounting for around 1% of the total number of vines.

Dijon Clones (B series)

Also sometimes called "Bernard" Clones, their origin is primarily from Chateau Morey St Denis in Burgundy. They are part of a wide range of French government selections.

Pinot Noir B113

Has the reputation of being either as dog or a star. A very small planting up in the limestone where we think it has the best potential to be a star. Clear and strong colour; fine floral bouquet typical of Pinot Noir; balanced; moderate tannins. Moderate yielding but sometimes suffers from irregular production. A balanced but light wine according to French data.

Pinot Noir B114

Delivers strong colour with a purplish hue; rich aroma of black cherry and spice; good skin structure and tannins, lowish pH. Below average yields, medium fertility, may set irregularly; above average sugar/alcohol potential; tight bunches.

Pinot Noir B115

Capable of producing strong colour with a purplish hue. Moderate yielding, moderately vigorous, with regular fruit set. Good quality wines with a superior bouquet described mostly as raspberry or small red berry fruit; rich and fuller bodied than most according to French data; well structured; tannic; long on the palate; ageworthy. Above average sugar/potential alcohol but with good acidity.

Pinot Noir B667

Beautiful, strong colour; restrained, elegant and quality bouquet of black cherries, spice and bark ; sweet tannins, structured to cellar; rich, long. Moderate yielding; medium fertility; small bunches with earlier maturity than some clones. Tends to produce high sugar/alcohol.

Pinot Noir B777

Strong and intense colours; strong aromas of juicy black fruit; good balance - round, good quality tannins. Moderate cropper; produces very good quality, complete and very typical wines with good keeping qualities according to French data. Slightly bigger bunches than average with some variation in berry size. Good producer, maturing earlier than most. Potential for high sugar/alcohol production.

California Clones

Also called "Pommard" in New Zealand

UCD5 & UCD6

UCD5 has performed well in New Zealand and is the mainstay of a number of top flight producers. Good producer, and setter, with potentially high yields which can be managed with careful fruit thinning if required. An early ripener with medium to large, tight bunches that require good Botrytis control. Both UCD5 and UCD6 produce lush, perfumed wines with UCD6 producing somewhat richer wines.

ABEL Selection

Also called the "Gumboot Clone" the original cutting are rumoured to be from DRC and are believed to have been imported in the 70s by a travelling rugby player, hidden in a gumboot. Saved from destruction by Malcolm Abel, a customs officer and Pinot enthusiast who paid for it to be put through quarantine at Te Kauwhata. Vines were first planted out in Abel's vineyard in Kumeu (now long gone), but a young winemaker working with him, Clive Paton, took cuttings back with him to Ata Rangi in Martinborough. Abel is both fertile and productive, so yields must be carefully managed. The naturally vigourous nature of this clone suits our hard soils and it's tendency to mature later helps spread out the harvest. Bunches are reasonably large and heavy. Abel is believed by many winemakers to be the most "complete" Pinot Noir clone.